DFL’s anti-piracy partner Athletia aims to combat ease of video sharing

The proliferation of new digital platforms, coupled with the now global availability of content, have been the main challenges in monitoring the piracy of the Bundesliga in recent years, according to Athletia, the Cologne-based content and rights protection agency.

Athletia recently signed a wide-ranging agreement with the German Football League (DFL) as the league authorities for the first time entrusted a single company to monitor live streaming, on-demand and clip violations on social media, web and IPTV. In the process, the DFL acquired a 15-per-cent shareholding in Athletia.

Through the “ryghts” project, it has been reported that the DFL is not paying a cash sum for its shareholding in Athletia, but instead guaranteeing the company an annual contract of around €1m ($1.1m) per year over six years.

Speaking to SportBusiness about trends that have developed around anti-piracy protection during the four years in which Athletia has worked with the DFL, Britta Sölter, joint managing director, highlighted the ease in sharing content.

She said: “In the past four years – thanks to mobile devices, new platforms and widely-available internet connections – we’ve seen quite some changes in the social media landscape.

“While in 2015 there were only one or two social media platforms offering video functionality, today, almost all platforms allow content to be uploaded and widely shared. It’s become super easy for the common user to share videos. At the same time, the global availability of content has made its protection significantly more complex.”

However, she continued: “We’ve also experienced the positive impact an efficient approach can have on platforms, where we’ve implemented a close-meshed monitoring, we’ve seen the numbers of unauthorised uploads drop significantly over the years.”

Around 50,000 illegal Bundesliga live streams were tracked down by the Cologne-based firm last season.

Athletia, which was founded in 2013, currently monitors content for 35 clubs, leagues, federations and broadcasters around the world.

Research released last year by Vaunet, the association of German commercial broadcasters, found that 1.9 million people in Germany regularly watch illegal live TV signals. Over 43 per cent of illegal live streams were of football games, with 9 per cent from other sports.

German media companies are estimated to lose over €430m per year as a result of piracy.

Sports rights-holders worldwide have displayed increasing vigilance across all sports in protecting their content, in part due to the high-profile activities of pirate channel beoutQ in the Mena region.

Yet, when asked if the piracy risk to the Bundesliga is greater than it ever has been and could have a marked impact on rights values, Lukas Klumpe, Athletia’s joint managing director, said: “Content protection might have become more complex, but we wouldn’t say the threat is greater than it has ever been. However, the increased demands of a fast-paced and fast-changing environment require very efficient solutions and a high flexibility to adapt to those changes.”

Quizzed on the development of piracy in sport in the last four years, he noted: “The need for content protection has always been a relevant aspect in sports that rights-holders have been well aware of.

“The technological developments in the past years, alongside with today’s global availability of content, do not only bear risks but also hold huge opportunities for sport’s commercial model. To realise this potential, it’s more important than ever to protect content with a stringent approach.”

Klumpe continued: “Thanks to the wide variety of events monitored on behalf our partners, we detect patterns and new developments pretty early on and will then implement them to our tools. This way, our tools continuously evolve with any changes in the market environment and we are able to realise significant synergies our partners will benefit from.”

beoutQ report

The DFL joined other rights-holders at the end of July to decry the activities of beoutQ, calling on the Saudi Arabian authorities for their support in “ending the widespread and flagrant breaches of our intellectual property rights taking place in the country.”

Another joint statement was issued today by football’s leading rights-holders, including the DFL, in reaction to the independent report from MarkMonitor into beoutQ’s actions.

The statement from the Bundesliga, English Premier League, LaLiga, Ligue 1, Serie A, the AFC, Fifa and Uefa, read: “As rights-holders of globally followed sports events, whose intellectual property rights have been breached on a systematic and widespread basis by the pirate broadcaster known as beoutQ, we have commissioned a leading industry body, MarkMonitor, to conduct research and produce a detailed and independent technical analysis of beoutQ’s operations.

“The report confirms without question that beoutQ’s pirate broadcasts have been transmitted using satellite infrastructure owned and operated by Arabsat. The contents of the report are today being published in full on the rights-holders’ websites to provide transparency about the facts of the case and to demonstrate the seriousness with which we, as global rights holders, view this issue.”

The full details of the report can be found here.

The statement continued: “As previously communicated, we have been frustrated in our attempts to pursue a formal copyright claim against beoutQ in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and, while we have received reports that beoutQ transmissions are currently disrupted, we nevertheless call on Arabsat and all other satellite providers to stop (and going forward agree to refrain from) providing a platform for piracy, which harms not just legitimate licensees, fans and players but also the sports that it abuses.

“Cutting off its access to transmission services would be a major step in the fight to stop beoutQ. We all, individually and collectively, remain committed to bringing an end to international sports piracy.”